Legal fight not needed

November 16, 2018

The majority of Scribner residents don’t see it as much of a concern or issue. Neither do we, for that matter.

It’s just some pesky outsiders that may complicate things for this Northeast Nebraska community.

Last month, voters in Scribner overwhelmingly approved an ordinance that requires immigrants and others to obtain a city permit, and attest to their citizenship status, before renting housing in the community. The ordinance, patterned after one in effect in Fremont, won by more than a 2-to-1 ratio.

It also requires local businesses to use a federal database to check the immigration status of job applicants.

Mayor Ken Thomas said the Scribner ordinance was drafted, word-for-word, to match Fremont’s ordinance, which was subsequently upheld by the 8th Circuit Federal Court of Appeals following a lawsuit that had been filed by the ACLU of Nebraska.

“We won’t incur any legal costs unless the ACLU takes us to court,” Thomas said. “That would be their decision if they want to bring hardship on the city of Scribner.”

That was the proper tone for the mayor to take. The majority of Scribner residents obviously are comfortable with what was proposed and approved.

The question is whether outside interests will want to try to impose their perspectives on the community.

Danielle Conrad, the executive director of ACLU of Nebraska, said Scribner was clearly assuming a risk of litigation to “advance a political agenda” and that the ACLU will continue to monitor whether the new ordinance violates anyone’s civil rights.

“We think this local ordinance is suspect from a legal and policy perspective, and that it risks racial profiling and discrimination,” Conrad said. “We did not go looking for this fight.”

But given that Fremont’s ordinance has been upheld in court, it would seem punitive and unnecessary to involve Scribner in a legal fight.

Scribner is the first Nebraska community to follow Fremont’s lead. Construction of a massive Costco chicken-processing plant in Fremont helped spawn concerns that Scribner, about 21 miles away, would see an influx of undocumented foreign-born workers.

“We certainly are not going to discriminate against anyone,” Mayor Thomas said. “If you’re here lawfully, you have nothing to worry about.”

Let’s hope that’s the case for Scribner as a whole, too.

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